Have you read the recent hit called Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb? It has led many folks to re-examine how they run their lives and their organizations. One of the main concepts of the book is that of the barbell. The idea here is that there should be a macro balance in all things, i.e. don’t be “all-in” on just one way of doing things. One way this concept applies in real life is with investment portfolios. Here, 90% gets invested in conservative instruments like bonds. The other 10% gets invested in high-risk securities like stocks. Too much of any one of these strategies and you become fragile. You will break when an unexpected event happens in the market.
What’s interesting about the theory is that it applies to many different verticals. Let’s consider the life of a freelancer. As we all know, it’s easy to fall into a routine. We are often left wanting to shake things up in our lives. Unfortunately, trying to think about how to shake things up on a regular basis can get tiring. Especially so if you don’t have a framework to do the heavy lifting for your brain. Well, rest assured, because the barbell can provide such a framework.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Variable vs Fixed Schedule
One way this applies to freelancing is by how you structure, or don’t structure, your days. Try spending several months waking up at the same time everyday. Go to the same workspace, and come home to the same bed. Then, try spending several more months in an unstructured way. Don’t set your alarm and just wake up when your body tells you to. Bounce around different workspaces using something like Croissant. Work from different regions around the world with Remote Year. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Risky vs Conservative Clients
Try splitting up your portfolio of clients. Take ones that give ambitious, almost impossible, projects. Later, go with ones that need the usual run-of-the-mill work. This will keep your brain alive and rested. We often forget that we’re not machines who can perform at max levels on intensity. We need time to relax and decompress. This is why those who can find balance in the type of work they do, end up being more at peace. They also at the same time perform better than the rest of the pack.
Big Decisions vs Little Ones
Spend a few hours thinking through your overarching life strategy. Then, spend some time nailing down nuances in the grammar of your next blog post. Gary Vaynerchuck calls this the “clouds and dirt” principle. It means that any self-operator needs to have both big ideas and little ideas to be successful. Spending too much time thinking about the big picture can lead to a lull in the performance of your business. But, digging too deep into the everyday operations of the business can cause you to lose touch. Don’t forget why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Full-time vs Freelancing
As humans, we’re designed to follow our evolutionary programming. For us, this means doing the same profession for a long time can get boring. This is why people sometimes gravitate to full-time gigs. Sometimes, they go get freelancer jobs. This is natural. Let nature run its course and entertain the idea that you may need to change up. Hence, you might want to re-think identifying yourself as a freelancer or a corporate. Stay open to becoming either one in your next move. They both will bring their own set of challenges for you to learn from.
In conclusion, try thinking about how the barbell principle can apply in your life. Think of a time when you had a solid routine, and think of another time when you completely went off the tracks. Don’t live life like a bag in the wind. Don’t wait for big life events to dictate the way you run your life. Take control! Make these inevitable like changes happen in a small and controlled manner. Doing so will make you antifragile.